by Sally Cohen
Back in the 1950s hearing aids for the hearing disabled were quite primitive, but then came Dr. E. Robert (Cy) Libby, who is now 95. Cy, who did quite a bit of work at the old Pa. School for the Deaf when it was on Mermaid Lane, was a pioneer in the field of hearing aids. “His vision and hearing are now diminished, but he’s still going strong,” said his friend, Larry Denenberg, of Chestnut Hill. “He’s truly been an international force in his field, and his love of Philadelphia is only second to that of his love of life.”
Libby graduated from Pennsylvania State College of Optometry with an O.D. Degree. In 1943, he started to dispense hearing aids in addition to his optometry practice. Dr. Libby developed the world’s first miniaturized behind-the-ear electronic metronome, specifically designed for speech therapy. Libby also developed programs for tinnitus relief.
He was on the vanguard of many hearing aid advances. Cy developed and patented The Libby Horn in 1982, which maximizes high frequencies. Cy was one of the first distributors of equipment for conducting impedance measurements (the measure of the opposition that an electrical circuit presents to a current when a voltage is applied) and auditory brain stem response (ABR) and probing microphone measurements in the U.S.
According to Wikipedia, “Always willing to share his knowledge with others, he (Dr. Libby) has written and lectured throughout the world. A friend to all, he has spent thousands of hours breaching the gap between the hearing health care disciplines. This hearing instrument specialist has gained the respect of audiologists, otologists and hearing specialists alike. In his role over many years, as Associate Editor of ‘Hearing Instruments,’ he interpreted many difficult new concepts for all the disciplines to understand.”
Among the awards Cy received were The New York League “Fletcher Award” (1982) and the Hearing Instrument’s “Distinguished Service Award” (1989). At one time Cy was an Assistant Professor in the Speech and Hearing Department of Hahnemann Medical School, and he also taught Longevity and Wellness for the Temple University Association of Retired Professionals.
Cy served as President of Associated Hearing Instruments in Upper Darby for 62 years, as Director of the Board of Directors of Etymotic Research for The Better Hearing Institute and on The Board of Advisors for the Zenith Hearing Aid Corporation. He once said that “the key to a happy long life is choosing your parents wisely.”
For 57 years Dr. Libby was married to Mira Braverman Libby, who died on Nov. 16, 2011, at the age of 78. The Libbys had two children, Claire Libby and Danny (Lori) Libby. For 35 years, Mira was a teacher and Home and School Visitor for the School District of Philadelphia.
According to Goldstein’s Funeral Home in East Oak Lane, “She was a charter member of AJMI (Advocates for the Jewish Mentally Ill) and an active supporter of The Delaware Valley Opera Company and many other cultural organizations. She and her husband traveled internationally on many occasions. She greatly enjoyed her flea markets and thrift shops.”
Cy, a Philadelphia lover, asked us to run this poem he wrote titled “Ole Billy Penn on Top of City Hall”: “In Philly fair city, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on Ole Billy Penn. He stood on his pedestal, so cool and so bold. He was 37 feet tall, so I was told. He gazed to the north. Beneath him The Declaration of Independence was brought forth, and the Constitution was born on a bright September morn, and it secured the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. The Liberty Bell pealed to the sky, and Betsy Ross unfurled her flag on high, and the voice of freedom was heard in the land. And it happened in Philly fair city, where the girls are so pretty and where I first set my eyes on Ole Billy Penn.”